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An Introduction to Substance Use Disorders for Dental Professionals

Course Number: 545

Alcohol Use & Addiction

According to the Results from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 48.7% of Americans age 12 and older had used alcohol at least once in the 30 days prior to being surveyed, 21.7% had binged (5+ drinks (for men) and 4+ drinks (for women) within 2 hours), and 5.7% drank heavily (5+ drinks on 5+ occasions). In the 12-17 age range, 6.8% had consumed at least one drink in the 30 days prior to being surveyed, 3.7% had binged, and .2% drank heavily.39,61

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Figure 9. Past Month Alcohol Use, Past Month Binge Alcohol Use, or Past Month Heavy Alcohol Use: Among People Aged 12 or Older; 202261

Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is the intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches. It is a central nervous system depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. A standard drink (12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces [a “shot”] of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor [gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey]) contains 0.6 ounces of pure ethanol.

Alcohol affects every organ in the body as well as damages a developing fetus. Intoxication can impair brain function and motor skills; heavy use can increase risk of certain cancers, stroke, and liver disease. Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is a diagnosable disease characterized by a strong craving for alcohol, and/or continued use despite harm or personal injury. Alcohol abuse, which can lead to alcoholism, is a pattern of drinking that results in harm to one's health, interpersonal relationships, or ability to work.22,39,40